Sunday, March 30, 2008

Some thoughts on love

From Dennis Prager:

"The love relationship between a man and a woman is unique.. . .it is the only relationship in which it is a good thing to seek to be loved. In other relationships, it is bad to seek to be loved. Parents who seek to be loved by their children will inevitably do a poor job as a parent. They may even damage their child. Leaders who seek to be loved by the public will be ineffective at best and dangerous at worst. One can only lead if he does not yearn to be loved. A teacher who tries to be loved by her students will likewise fail. Parents, leaders, teachers have jobs to do, and seeking to be loved compromises their ability to do those jobs properly. They should seek to do the right thing, and doing the right thing often means being not loved, even hated. If they seek any response from those they lead, it should be respect, not love.

"But in the love of equals — i.e., the love between a man and a woman and the love of friends — it is not only all right to seek to be loved, it is a good thing. Taking the love of a spouse or friend for granted is perhaps the single greatest cause of marital divorce and the breakup of friendships. “What can I do to ensure his/her continuing love?” is a wonderful thing to keep in mind."

What think you?

Are you religious?

Maverick Philosopher has a quote from Simone Weil:

The extreme affliction which overtakes human beings does not create human misery, it merely reveals it.

This suggests one of several tests you might apply to yourself to see if you have a religious ‘bent’ or sensibility, or orientation toward life, or however you wish to phrase it. If, upon reading the Weilian line, a ‘yes!’ wells up in you, then the chances are excellent that you are religiously inclined. If your response is in the negative, however, or if you are just puzzled, then that indicates that you lack the religious attitude.

Soul food

"The danger is not lest the soul should doubt whether there is any bread [God], but lest, by a lie, it should persuade itself that it is not hungry."

Simone Weil (1909-1943) French philosopher and mystic; from Waiting for God.

Love and understanding

"Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing help, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it's those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them - we can love completely without complete understanding."

Rev. Norman Maclean, from the movie A River Runs Through It

How true.

Friday, March 28, 2008


It wasn't easy to walk past his house without stopping to talk. At least chat. Local stuff. Neighbourly stuff. A bit of putting the world to rights. But not much. If you didn't want to stop or talk, it was easier to take a different route, past someone else's front gate.

When I was a lad, my father had a corner shop. People, mainly women, came in for the company. It wasn't the kind of shop where the service was swift and efficient. Hygiene and accountancy were not high among my dad's priorities. You didn't get a receipt. There wasn't a till. Dad was as much a friend, counsellor, entertainer, as a shopkeeper. His customers were his captive audience. To work alongside him was a great laugh, but ours was not the kind of shop I would have visited as a customer.

To pass Jack's gate was to enter into a relationship with him; to know and be known. Like shopping in my dad's shop.

Jack would also have made a great country parson. He would have done supremely well what I could never do. Standing in one place, watching the world go by, passing the time of day with villagers and visitors alike. I wasn't good at it. I was always friendly and affable, and ready to talk about everyday things. To men I could chat about sport, but cars and tractors and DIY left me cold. And always in the back of my mind I would be thinking of what I ought to have been doing that would have been more worthwhile, more like a proper job, more like work. I was paid to be the Vicar after all.

Jack would have taken all this in his stride. At least I think he would. What I don't know is how good he was at keeping confidences, or how much he just liked a good gossip. I've no doubt though he was a mine of personal information about the local populace, and people don't usually talk as freely to those they can't trust. He had his very own drop-in congregation, many of whom I never see now.

It was too cold in winter for Jack to take his stand, and that's why we didn't miss him for weeks after he died. In fact we didn't know he had died. Now we do, and our walk to the post-office will be more direct, but less of an event.

Jack RIP

Saturday, March 22, 2008

One crying in the wilderness

From The Times:

Despite the many mistakes that have been made I still do not regret that the war happened. I regret deeply what happened after the war. I take hope from the work of the Multi National Forces in Iraq, not least the US and UK troops; they are doing an outstanding job. I also take hope from the way that the Iraqi Army is developing.

The writer is Canon Andrew White - known as the vicar of Baghdad - the only Anglican vicar still working in the city.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mary Doyle

Mary was my auntie. Hers was the last funeral I took, months ago, as a family favour. She was quite old - in her eighties. When she was only in her seventies she lost confidence in her GP. There was, she said, something about him she didn't trust. She thought he was out to do her harm. We all thought the same thing: She's going funny: It's her age: Poor Mary.

Her doctor was Harold Shipman.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Starting over

Buddhist spirituality I like. What I can't figure out is how such sensitive and intelligent people as are drawn to that great religion can fall for such a logically incoherent doctrine as reincarnation.

The belief that I was someone else, say Guy Fawkes, in a previous life seems straightforward enough until the next person turns up claiming the exact same identity. What criteria could we possibly apply to distinguish the true claim from the false?

Yours truly

I wish that we took Oscar Wilde more seriously about many things, but one of the most profoundly insightful sayings attributed to him is that prayer should never be answered. Prayer that is answered, he continued, ceases to be prayer and becomes correspondence.


A few random thoughts on honesty:

It was Honest to God by John Robinson that convinced me back in the sixties that religion should be taken seriously by thoughtful people.

Being honest has many times been expensive for me in life and ministry.

I would like to belong to a Church that was more publicly honest. Andrew Shanks on liturgy as an ideal enactment of public honesty is interesting. More on this later.

I wonder what would happen if, like those with Tourette's syndrome, we all acquired a tendency to blurt out the most shockingly immediate and uncensored version of the truth as we saw and felt it without regard for the needs or feelings of others within hearing distance.

Vivienne Westwood's use of the phrase 'organised lying' with reference to the propaganda put out daily for public consumption caused to me to wonder whether all human institutions are based on this practice, and whether the Church could and should be the exception.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


From Normblog:

Name the odd one out, and discount gender in doing so.

Neil Harvey, Herbert Hoover, Garfield Sobers, Harry S. Truman, Graeme Pollock, Ronald Reagan, David Gower, Bill Clinton, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama.
If you can't get it on your own, the answer is available here.

Monday, March 03, 2008


It's one of the things I mean to blog about, along with the old Death and Immortality questions, in the coming weeks.

Honesty is so difficult, and so neglected, and so easily evaded. Trouble is, we are, by and large, so dishonest about honesty, and so hypocritical in the way that we demand it of others, especially children, not least our own, but manage it cunningly to our advantage as adults.

Let's be honest, nobody wants to live in a world where everybody is honest. Our local headteacher who likes to include in her school prayers petitions for strength to be honest at all times, would be the most horrified if one of her pupils told her, honestly, that she was grossly overweight.

Some things are better left unsaid.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

I'm back, honey!

I've been out of touch for a few days; what in the Church of England we call an interregnum.

We used to have AOL Broadband, but now we have Sky. A kind of conversion; just can't get away from God-talk. But between my two ISPs there was a silence, a not-being-connected, a not-belonging. And worse, for me, there was having to acquire and install a new computer to go with my new connection, because the other one was too old and didn't have the right socket for me to plug the router into. And one thing led to another - an easy transfer cable that I bought and whose CD I then inadvertently discarded (PC World kindly replaced the CD, even though they hadn't lost it) - an easy transfer cable (the same one) that turned out to be a 'won't transfer anything at all' cable, again because the old computer didn't have enough disk space to operate it (the saintly staff at PC World replaced this with a Flash Drive which I'm assured will do the job but much more slowly) - constant to-ing and fro-ing - attempts, soon abandoned, to run two computers with only one monitor - . . . . and now at last a kind of normality, and a lesson learned

. . . . . to be humble is to be sane.